PHNOM PENH (REUTERS) - The eldest son of Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has assumed a position as joint chief of staff of Cambodia's Armed Forces, the latest promotion of one of Mr Hun Sen's family members to a senior post aimed at apparently consolidating his grip on power.
Cambodian defence ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said on Friday (March 2) that Lieutenant General Hun Manet, who is also a deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), has taken the role of joint chief of staff, replacing General Kun Kim who is on sick leave.
In January, Mr Hun Sen appointed his son-in-law as deputy national police chief and in December, his youngest son was promoted to the rank of colonel in his father's bodyguard unit.
The promotions come ahead of a July general election that many say Mr Hun Sen looks set to win easily after the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by the Supreme Court last November at his government's request.
The opposition ban prompted the United States, the European Union and others to condemn a crackdown by Mr Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) on critics, including opposition lawmakers and some independent media.
The US this week said it was suspending or curtailing several treasury, USAID and military assistance programmes that support Cambodia's military, taxation department and local authorities - all of which, it said, shared blame for recent instability.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Mr Hun Manet could become head of the armed forces in the future.
"He could become the mainstay of the regime which has already become a de facto hereditary military regime," Mr Lao Mong Hay told Reuters.
Mr Hun Sen celebrated 33 years in power in January, and has frequently spoken of staying on for at least another decade.